An African Thunderstorm Historical Context

The poem describes a typical African thunderstorm, with all its intensity. In African society, rain is a blessing; everything loves the approach of rain, not just children. It is good for the crops and the animals, as it increases the harvest. However, when we read this poem, we don’t get the feeling that the author is happy; he concentrates on telling us about the damage that the rain and wind do. For example, a plague of locusts is never a good thing, at least for the crops. It calls attention because the poet uses this simile while referring to the wind that brings rain, a good thing.

It is possible to interpret the poem as the effect of colonial domination on the native land. The time that the poet has lived- his country got independence in the early 1960’s- can be convincing.  At least he was familiar with that part of the history of his country. It also alludes to domination by such words as “trees bend to let the wind pass”, “clouds ride stately on the back of the wind”. The tattered flags have a nationalistic connotation.

The interpretation provided could be making a mountain out of a molehill but also, there can be more than meets the eye. That is why it is important to know as much as possible about the historical context in which the poet lived. Rubadiri fell out with his president a year after his appointment as ambassador. It would be interesting to find out when he actually wrote the poem and what he did afterwards, a challenge I launch out to you!

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